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Protecting your landscape from winter storm damage

Winter storm Jonas (why are we naming them again?) is barreling towards us, and that’s caused a number of friends to send me panicked texts and Facebook messages like “will this destroy my new plants?” and “help me save my trees!” I figure if they have questions, maybe you do too. Here’s what you need to know to prevent landscape winter storm damage.

Winter Storm JONAS

Protecting your plants from winter storm damage

Snow and ice damage to plants was pretty widespread after Snowmageddon a few years ago. There are some trees and shrubs that are particularly vulnerable to this sort of damage. A great example is arborvitae – the multiple delicate, vertical branches are susceptible to getting weighed down and flopping apart, resulting in a “split” appearance to the plant.

Since a branch is weak but many branches are strong, you can essentially “splint” the branches with one another. Using something that won’t cut or dig into the bark (I like wide tie-down straps), lash the branches together ⅔ of the way above the crotch. Just be sure to untie them once the danger has passed, because if you leave them tied up going into spring it can girdle and damage the plant.


If your trees and shrubs do droop and bend with the weight of the snowfall, don’t just run out and bang the snow off of them. The sudden drop in weight will cause them to try and snap back into shape, which may cause more damage than if they slowly eased back into shape. Remember this: plants have been surviving winters without us knocking snow off with brooms for thousands of years. Trust Mother Nature – she’s smarter than we are.

Protecting your hardscape from winter storm damage

It’s rare that the DC area sees the type of light, fluffy, powdery snows they get in Colorado. Wet snow + melting + refreezing = lots and lots of slip and fall potential. As a result, you’ll likely end up salting your walks and steps. But is your salt bad for your investment in hardscapes?


Aggressive, magnesium-based ice melt products can damage concrete and stone surfaces. If you have a basic asphalt or  concrete driveway and path and you don’t really care what happens to it in the long run, knock yourself out – salt away with the big guns. But if you want to be sure that you’re not pitting or staining the surface, consider calcium based products. Rock salt is also considered safe by many manufacturers, but be sure to check and see what the makers of your paving products recommend.

After the storm is past

If you still end up with damage to the landscape – from snow, plows, ice, or whatever – give us a call!  I’m now working closely with a tree guy and landscape specialist and he’ll go as far east on 3 as Fredericksburg, or up to Fauquier, Prince William, and southern Loudoun counties. No matter what, be safe, have fun, and enjoy the snow!

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